Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Sexual Abuse in the Pagan Community

I have accepted a commission from a Pagan magazine publisher to write an article about sexual abuse and pedophilia in the Pagan community. That should make me popular .

We've discussed this article at length and we're on the same page as to what it should be (factual, broad in scope and, most importantly, useful) and what it should not be (incendiary, salacious, or something that could result in a lawsuit). This is not a uniquely Pagan problem; this is a human issue, and that will be our point.

We will not name names except in those cases where the names of (adults) are a matter of public record, and in those cases we can only quote from sources such as the New York Times, completed court cases, etc. I know that law on this issue, more or less, and I know Pagan attorneys I can turn to when I'm unsure. I know many of the cases that have occurred in the past 10 years, and who to ask for more information on same. I'm trained in research techniques, so I can check my facts, and I'll have others check these, as well. As a former teacher I know what parents want to know which is always this: How can we keep our kids safe without scaring them to death? To my mind, the most important part of the article will not be the sections that talk about past abuse; something which anyone with any time spent in the community knows all about. (1) The section I'm most interested in writing will talk about avoiding abuse in the future. In other words, what practical steps can we take to insure the safety of our children and circle members. That will involve setting boundaries, and that can be hard for many Pagans. So it goes. We have to deal with these issues if we want safe groups and circles. Again, this won't make me popular, but I want to write it this way because I don't believe in stating a problem without also offering a solution.

I have six months to work on this. It is, to be frank, a humbling commission and a rather daunting prospect. Other, better writers have tackled this project and dropped out. Usually, some abuse had occurred in their own circles and they were too close to the problem. Ironically, my pendantry (my "teacher voice", if you will) which is a real drawback in my fiction is actually a plus here, as is my work in the recovery movement. But as much as I'm familiar with such stories, I'm not looking forward to doing the interviews - there is just so much pain and loss around this issue. Even so, I do feel this article is worth writing.

I want to do this task well. I want the article to be fair. I need to get it right, because this is important. We can protect our children better than we do now. If I'm lucky, this article will generate some much needed changes, some discussion, and, hopefully, some healing. I'd like it to be something useful that groups and circles can refer to when setting their own standards for protection and care. If I can do that, I'll be happy.

Wish me luck. Seriously. Light a candle or do whatever it is that you do in your tradition. I could use the help.

Sia Posted by Picasa

Note: The image is Impression: Sunrise by Claude Monet. It speaks of journeys, beginnings, and points of view.

(1) Ironically, what started us talking about this issue again is a scandal that few people do know about: The case against Marrion Zimmer Bradley and her husband, Walter Breen. Breen was serial pedophile, who was banned from certain SciFi conventions for his behavior towards young boys, and who later died in prison. Bradley is accused of knowing about this and enabling his behavior, and other abuses I can't mention here (see link below). I can't include the case against Breen in the article (as he was not Pagan). Nor can I discuss the behavior of Bradley, a Pagan icon, as she renounced Paganism at the end of her life, and became a Christian. In any case, she is no longer here to defend herself. All we have now are the accusations and the court depositions, which she gave in her last years (which are damning, in my mind, to say the least) and her SciFi series (which many readers think sexualize the children characters in very creepy ways). To be honest, I was never a fan of Bradley's writing ( I don't like her female characters, who tend to be victums or power hungry harpies) but I never had any idea that she had been so accused of so much abuse, so often. I doubt most Pagans do. For those who are interested, I suggest reading the transcripts. from her depositions and making up your own mind. Fair warning: They are disturbing.

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